The Weather

Consider the Box-Turtle or Homosexuality in Texas: A One-Act

“I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.” — Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 11 June 2014

“It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right. . . . Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife.” — Texas Senator John Cornyn, 8 July 2004

***

[curtain]

RICK PERRY: Hoo boy, if that isn’t Phil Gramm.

JOHN CORNYN: Nope.

RICK: Oh. Hm. [removes & polishes spectacles] Department of the Interior?

JOHN: Good guess! But really it’s me, John Cornyn—Republican senator from the great republic of Texas!

RICK: Attaboy Phil.

JOHN: Love the new glasses.

RICK: Right? I mean, at first I wasn’t sure about the whole glasses lifestyle. Like whether it was genetic or not. But glasses-wearing can’t be genetic, right?

JOHN: Right. It’s a choice.

RICK: Precisely. For example, I could have chosen to wear contacts. But I didn’t. I chose to wear glasses, and now I think that people think that I am intelligent.

JOHN: Great choice, Rick.

RICK: Yeah, but it hasn’t all been easy.

JOHN: Oh?

RICK: Yeah the other day I found my box-turtle wearing these glasses.

JOHN: You’re kidding! Plautus?

RICK: Plautus. Dude was just wearing my specs, like it was no big deal.

JOHN: That’s a slippery slope, Rick.

RICK: I know.

JOHN: It starts out harmless. First you and the box-turtle are sharing glasses. No big deal, you say, no one’s too concerned, you figure it’s just a phase. Before long the habit gains sway. You’re sharing underwear and insurance policies and adopting smaller box-turtles, maybe cute ones from Africa, and you’re doing jazzercise until one day you trip over Plautus while Weather Report is laying down a fat beat because Plautus is wearing your glasses and you mistook him for an ottoman. He is not an ottoman, and he should not have the same legal standing as one.

RICK: Damn, Phil, you’ve… really thought about this.

JOHN: Oh yes. Constant vigilance. You wouldn’t believe what box-turtles have done to the American family in the past decade. Now they’re even holding parades.

RICK: NO WAY.

JOHN: YES WAY. Remember last September, when traffic was backed up on Cesar Chavez for five days straight?

RICK: Sure do. I thought that was Christie.

JOHN: Nope. Just a politically fervent and incredibly slow “Pride Parade.”

RICK: A parade of… of turtles?

JOHN: Box-turtles, yes.

RICK: Here’s the other thing Phil: do I have to keep Plautus in a box, or can I put a box-turtle in, say, a bag, or a cupboard, or a glove compartment?

JOHN: That’s a great question Rick.

RICK: [blushes] Thanks.

JOHN: Basically you’re on safe ground as long as there’s some kind of container or barrier separating you from the turtle. Otherwise, you’re looking at a domestic-partner situation.

RICK: Whew, OK, glad I asked. Hey, can I fix you a drink?

JOHN: Sure! Shot and a beer?

RICK: SHOT AND A BEER!!

[they take a shot; then another; then two more]

RICK: [frowning into his beer] Y’know, Phil, I think Plautus has been stepping out on me. Sneaking out at night.

JOHN: That seems pretty unlikely, Rick.

RICK: Why?

JOHN: Well first, to sneak out at night, the box-turtle would have to start sneaking away just after lunch.

RICK: But that’s when we play Yahtzee.

JOHN: There you go.

RICK: [welling up] Aww I’m a goddang fool. Plautus would never do something like that.

JOHN: Hey Rick, can I ask a question?

RICK: Definitely dude! Definitely.

JOHN: So, I know you said alcoholism was basically like homosexuality.

RICK: Yep. The same as homosexuality. That’s just common sense.

JOHN: Exactly…

RICK: I think it’s even in the DSM now.

JOHN: I really don’t think that’s true.

RICK: It’s in the Texas DSM.

JOHN: Rick, the “heebie-jeebies” are in the Texas DSM.

RICK: Fair point.

JOHN: Anyway. Here’s where I’m going. We’re two men.

RICK: Damn straight!

JOHN: Extremely straight. But we’re knocking back a few drinks—not, like, all the drinks always. Just some of the drinks, now. Therefore we are not alcoholics, right?

RICK: With you so far.

JOHN: So, if we’re capable of “responsible drinking…”

RICK: Go on.

JOHN: Well, maybe it’s not a whole lifestyle if you just sort of… tie one on? Right? I mean, boogie-boarding isn’t a lifestyle just because you did it once on Hilton Head.

RICK: Christ I hope not.

JOHN: My point precisely. So, if alcoholism is like gayness, and we’re not alcoholics but we’re still enjoying a few drinks, then why shouldn’t we—

RICK: My God—you’re saying why shouldn’t we make love?

JOHN: Think about it dude. It’s not a lifestyle.

RICK: […]

JOHN: Hear me out. If we choose to keep making love, forever, and maybe find a nice sequestered ranch on a bit of flat land, maybe in the panhandle somewhere, and adopt beautiful gaybies and you’d come home from the ranch and I’d help you off with your sweaty dungarees and we would all watch Huckabeethat would be a lifestyle. You see?

RICK: You paint a vivid picture.

JOHN: But we’re not choosing that. We’re choosing to have a couple of drinks, just a couple, and then to go to town on each other, like really go to town, but only a couple of times.

RICK: Just like responsible drinking?

JOHN: Bingo!

RICK: Well, I reckon there’s no reason two straight men, and possibly a box-turtle named after a Roman playwright, can’t get naked…

JOHN: … and just melt into each other’s strength.

RICK: My glasses are starting to steam up.

JOHN: Just one thing Rick—never forget that a union between man and box-turtle does not have the same legal footing as a union between a man and the girl he knocked up in college.

RICK: You’re kind of killing the mood here man.

JOHN: Sorry darling; that was my genetic code talking.

RICK: Hey, we’re better than that, Phil.

JOHN: You’re right Rick oh God you’re right—it’s awfully warm in here, I can’t think straight—

RICK: I know my glasses are steaming up but I want to keep them on so I can have Smart-Sex.

JOHN: YES OK let’s do this then hit Lens Crafters…

BOTH: … and get matching frames?!

JOHN: I think I love you.

[their lips graze as the lights fade; exeunt, pursued by box-turtle; scene]

Ted Scheinman is a culture reporter based in Chapel Hill. He has written for the Oxford American Quarterly, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Pacific Standard, Slate, and various other screen- or print-based concerns. His first book of nonfiction will appear via Faber in late 2014. He once gave Sam Shepard his autograph, and Tilda Swinton once served him coffee. (We're really not kidding — click here!) Follow him on Twitter: @Ted_Scheinman.